Aircraft Spotting Pages - John F. Kennedy International Airport

 

The above map, with modifications, was provided by Google Earth.

 

Click here for the flight information for JFK.

 

About John F. Kennedy International Airport

 

John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of three major airports in the New York metro region and is the primary international gateway for New York City and on the East Coast of the United States.  Over seventy different airlines operate flights in and out of JFK to all inhabited continents in the world and the airport is a hub for American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and JetBlue Airlines.  Major international airlines such as Air France, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, and Virgin Atlantic, among others, operate multiple daily flights to JFK as well as a whole slew of other international airlines which operate at least one daily or several weekly flights into JFK.

JFK operates 24 hours a day and sees flights arrive and depart at all hours of the day and night.  Most arrivals arrive between 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM and certain parts of the world have certain arrival banks into JFK.  Most flights from South America tend to arrive in the early morning hours (usually between 5:00 am and 10:00 am), most flights from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East tend to arrive between 10:30 am and 11:00 pm, flights from Asia arrive throughout the day, and flights from the continental United States, the Caribbean, and Central America arrive throughout the day.  Cargo flights from all over arrive all throughout the day and into the night and overnight hours.

There are four runways at the airport:  Runway 4L/22R, 4R/22L, 13L/31R, and 13R/31L.  In most configurations when a certain direction runway is in use, one is set aside for arrivals while the other is set aside for departures.  In most cases, Runways 4L, 13R, 22R, and 31L are departure runways while 4R, 13L, 22L, and 31R are strictly arrival runways (the departure runways also handle arrivals in peak hours).

It is also important to note that JFK utilizes what spotters call "the dreaded split" when JFK sends arrivals on Runways 22L and 13L and departs 13R.  In this configuration, JFK can safely land on 22L and 13L and depart on 13R simultaneously as Runways 13R and 22L do not intersect.  Most arrivals from the north and east will land on 22L while most arrivals from the south and west will land on 13L.  Having said that, European, Middle East, and African carriers will nine times out of ten be routed to land on 22L along with Boston and other select northeastern U.S. cities.  Flights from Asian and Caribbean carriers will nine times out of ten be routed to land on 13L.

 

About the Spots and What You Will See

Spot A:  All of the local spotters refer to this as Howard Beach or HoBe.  Take the Cross Bay Boulevard SOUTH exit off the Belt Parkway (if going towards the Verrazano Narrows Bridge) or the Cross Bay Boulevard exit if going east on the Belt Parkway (in this case, turn right at the light after you get on the exit ramp).  Go through at least seven traffic lights and be in the right lane once you go past all the traffic lights.  Once you cross the bridge, make a right at that traffic light, circle around as if you're going to make a U-turn - but do a legal U-turn, and go straight through the light to get onto the other side of Howard Beach and park along the water.  You will see 31L departures and depending on where they rotate or at which part of Runway 31L they initiate their takeoff roll, you will get a nice left turn upon departure.  You can watch some aircraft land on 31R, but they are out in the distance.  This is referred to as the Canarsie departure or Breezy Point climb.  The lighting is horrid in the morning and gets better as the day progresses, and you will need at least 400mm to get some decent pictures.

In the past, you had to make a right turn and then cross over Cross Bay Boulevard to legally make a left turn to HoBe.  As of a few years ago, Cross Bay Boulevard heading south has been restriped so that you can make a legal left turn into the spot.

This spot was also closed for about six months due to damage and restrictions put into place as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  A spotter representing NYCAviation.com drove by on April 27, 2013 and noted both parking lots to be open and the area has recovered from the damage from Sandy.  Spotters used to pull off of Cross Bay Blvd, park on the side of the road, take a photo, and move on (not recommended!).  Now it is possible to legally park and spot. 

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants along Cross Bay Blvd within five minutes of this spot, and there are also portable restrooms at this spot.

 

Spot B:  Spot B is located at Frank M. Charles Park and is an alternate location for 31L departures.  Follow Cross Bay Blvd. as you would to HoBe, except turn left at 157th Ave. (trust me on this) and turn right onto either 96th Street or 98th Street.  Both will dead end onto 165th Ave. and into the park.  Legally park on any street and walk to the park.  There are benches and ample amounts of shade and a fantastic view of 31L departures.  You will see 31L departures and depending on where they rotate or at which part of Runway 31L they initiate their takeoff roll, you will get a nice left turn upon departure.  You can watch some aircraft land on 31R, but they are out in the distance.  This is referred to as the Canarsie departure or Breezy Point climb.  The lighting is horrid in the morning and gets better as the day progresses, and you will need at least 300mm to get some decent pictures.  Photos here may be similar to what you'd get at Spot A.

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants along Cross Bay Blvd within five minutes of this spot.  There are no portable restrooms on site.

 

Spot C:  Spot C is unanimously called "The Mounds", as you are standing on mounds of dirt to shoot pictures from.  The best way to get to the mounds is to follow Rockaway Boulevard past the airport (take the Belt Parkway to Rockaway Boulevard).  Make a left at the first light, which is Brookville Blvd.  Continue on Brookville to the next light (147 Avenue) and make another left onto it.  Proceed to 230th St. and make another left.  Go to the end where there is a soccer field and school.  On the left side of the soccer field you will see a mound of dirt about 10 feet high. Take up position on this mound.  You will see arrivals to Runway 22L and Runway 22R, which, when active alongside 13L, will see the majority of the domestic flights going into 13L (your JetBlue, American and Delta 757s, and regional jets) with most of the international flights going into 22L.  This is one of the locations you can catch an A380 arrival from, since the A380 is able to land on Runway 22L.

Be careful when visiting this spot, since it is located in a shady neighborhood and the spot is notorious for the large amount of ticks that are among the plant life there.  Do not wander closer to the aircraft as there is a higher risk of getting ticks and other bugs on your body.  It is highly recommended that you do not wear shorts if you intend to walk to the mounds.  In addition, please be advised of the school, as spotters are frowned upon using the Mounds during school days and please also respect anyone else at the soccer field, as there may likely be games occurring. 

In addition, when parking your car near the Mounds, LOCK YOUR CAR and keep your valuables out of sight.

When JFK is landing on 22L, it is recommended to use this spot from mid-afternoon until sunset as the sun will be behind you then.

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along Rockaway Blvd within ten minutes of this spot.  There was also a portable restroom at this spot and in a visit to this spot in March 2015, there was no portable restroom on site.  During the summertime, there might be one placed here.

 

Spot D:  This is an alternate spot to view 22L arrivals.  The best way to get to this spot is to follow Rockaway Boulevard past the airport (take the Belt Parkway to Rockaway Boulevard).  Make a left at the first light, which is Brookville Blvd.  Continue on Brookville to the next light (147 Avenue) and make another left onto it.  You'll see a park to the right.  Find a parking spot and walk down the park to get any kind of vantage point you can think of.  Belly shots and side shots can be obtained here.  You can use any kind of lens here but be sure to carry at least a 200 mm lens on you.  This is one of the locations you can catch an A380 arrival from, since the A380 is able to land on Runway 22L.

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along Rockaway Blvd within ten minutes of this spot.

 

Spots E and F:  These two spots represent multiple retail locations along the southbound side of Rockaway Boulevard within ΒΌ-mile of each other.  Each location offers slightly different views of 31R arrivals with a chance to observe 31L arrivals. 

The first location you pass going east on Rockaway Boulevard is the parking lots at Burger King and Costco, which will offer mostly a slightly side-on and almost belly view of 31R arrivals only.  For safety reasons, it is not recommended to make a left turn out of Burger King onto Rockaway Boulevard (westbound) because of the extremely high volume of traffic on the road.  If you wish to go westbound, travel east and make a U-turn in the Costco lot.

Keep in mind regarding the location for Costco that if you choose to patronize Costco you will have to obtain a club membership.  You will have side-on and almost belly view of 31R arrivals and can observe 31L arrivals.  If you park at Costco, DO NOT take pictures of the fuel farm as this will draw a high amount of suspicion.

All of these spots can be reached by going eastbound on Rockaway Boulevard past the traffic light for Spot C (the Mounds) and turn right into either Burger King, Costco, or the shopping center.  The shopping center contains a Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Staples, Panera Bread, and other stores.

It is not recommended to take photos of 31L arrivals as you will be staring into the sun and they'll be further away than 31R arrivals.

They all provide the best lighting out of any of the Kennedy spots throughout the entire day from about 10 am onward, but you will have to deal with the power lines at all of the locations as well as the lamp posts.

Remember to be courteous to shoppers and customers, especially during the weekend, respective retail establishments by giving them your business, whether it be shopping or purchasing food, clean up after yourself and DO NOT LITTER, and do not utilize a large footprint while at these locations (in other words, legally park and stay within the confines of your car and respective parking space).

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments amongst these spots.

 

Spot G:  You'd know this spot as Inwood Park.  Take Rockaway Blvd. to Nassau Expressway (the light by COSTCO). Turn right at the light and go to the second light and make another right onto Burnside Avenue.  Burnside Avenue will change to Sheridan Blvd shortly thereafter.  You'll then make a right turn at Bayview Avenue (you’ll see an Inwood Park sign before the intersection).  Continue until the end of the road and enter the parking lot for the park.  Walk along the trail and go to the shoreline, which will be on your right.  You will get a good view of arrivals onto 31L and distant views of arrivals onto 31R.  In addition, you can also get departures from 13R, though you do not have a view of the airport from here.  If you have a good lens, you can get photos of 31R arrivals.  The lighting here is as good as the different locations represented by Spots E and F, but you don't get a good view of aircraft before they reach you because of the trees.  This is one of the locations you can catch an A380 arrival from, since the A380 is able to land on Runway 31L.

When parking your car at Inwood Park, LOCK YOUR CAR and keep your valuables out of sight.  While the park itself is very safe, it is best to keep your valuables and your car secure.

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along Rockaway Blvd within ten minutes of this spot.

Spot H:  Spot H covers Bayswater State Park.  Take Rockaway Boulevard to Nassau Expressway (the next light past the light for Costco/Spot E).  Turn right at the light and go to the second light and make another right onto Burnside Avenue.  Burnside Avenue will change to Sheridan Boulevard shortly thereafter.  Follow the road for about two miles to a light on the corner of Mott Avenue. Turn right and follow all the way to the end.  Park on the street (legally - please keep in mind of driveways and fire hydrants) and then walk through the gates to the park area.  Bayswater Park is open from a certain time frame (see below) and will offer spectacular airport overviews and views of arrivals onto 4L and 4R, departures from 4L, and departures from 22R, along with 13R departures and 31L arrivalsYou can also watch 31L departures and 22L arrivals from here as well.  You will need at least 400 mm to get some shots, especially for 22R departures and 31L arrivals.  You will see some people fishing at this spot as well, and don't forget to bring bug spray during the summer.  Also, after a rainstorm, remember that walk into the park can get a bit muddy!  This is one of the locations you can catch an A380 arrival from, since the A380 is able to land on Runway 31L as well as on 4R and depart from 13R.

Please note that as of April 30, 2011, Bayswater State Park is open from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm every day but keep in mind that there is a sign in the park stating the park is open until sunset and you will be asked to leave once the closing time approaches.  Bayswater State Park was slated for closure several years ago by the State of New York as part of a budget crunch but had been reopened after several weeks of closure.

In addition, when parking your car along Mott Avenue, LOCK YOUR CAR and keep your valuables out of sight.  While the first neighborhood you drive through might be shady, the neighborhood adjacent to the park is indeed a safe neighborhood.  Again, be mindful of where you park so that you are not blocking anyone's driveway and not blocking a fire hydrant.

This spot is not recommended after approximately 12 PM to sunset for operations on the 4s and 22s as the sun is directly in front of you.  This doesn't mean you can't be at Bayswater State Park from time frame - it is a friendly reminder that photos from there will not have the best lighting conditions.  However, from mid afternoon until sunset, it is a GREAT spot for 13R departures and you will have the sun behind you as the departures pass your location.

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along Rockaway Blvd within fifteen minutes of this spot as well as a few fast food restaurants along Burnside Avenue near Mott Avenue.

 

A380 is a 4R arrival, CRJ900 is a 13R departure.

Spot I:  This is representative of two spots located in the Cargo Areas at JFK.  It is highly recommended to exercise sensible judgment here as these locations are on airport property and the few parking spots are to be utilized by airport employees who work in that part of the airport.

The first spot is located at and adjacent to the UPS Employee Parking Lot.  Follow signs off the JFK Expressway or the Van Wyck Expressway to Cargo Area A.  You will end up on 150 Avenue.  At the end of 150 Avenue, turn left.  Make another left into a paved parking lot at UPS or even before UPS.  You have the best seat in the house for 13L arrivals, as they fly nearly over your head, but you do have the opportunity to get side-on shots from here. 

The second spot is at the first traffic light - you will have the airport plaza to your right (it has a gas station and restaurants - you can't miss it) and what appears to be a tractor-trailer parking lot to your left.  Turn left in there and utilize any legal open and unmarked spots.  Exercise judgment here because these spots are meant for the vehicles they are meant for and that if you do utilize this spot, utilize as small of a footprint as possible.

Recommendations:  If the 13s are in use, utilize the tractor-trailer parking lot from sunrise until mid-morning and utilize the cargo parking lots from mid-morning until sunset.  This will keep the sun in the optimum location for photos.

DO NOT go anywhere beyond the parking lots to get any pictures and this includes the approach lights.  Since these spots are on airport property, you have a much higher chance of being asked to leave by the Port Authority Police Department and any private security firms.  Port Authority Police, private security firms, UPS employees, and others will likely ask you to leave.

Facilities:  Food and restrooms are within five minutes of this spot along with gas and a car wash.

 

 

Spot J:  This unique spot is located on the top deck of the Terminal 5 parking garage, and you will hear spotters refer to this spot as T5.  To get to this spot is easy - just follow the signs to the Terminal 5 parking garage and drive up and park on the top deck of the parking garage.  This spot can be utilized as it is great for operations on the 4s and on the 22s and you will see all takeoffs and landings from those runways and get an overview of some aircraft parked at the Terminal 4 gates.  In addition, because of the shape of the parking garage, Runway 13L/31R can be viewed here as well as some British Airways aircraft parked at Terminal 7.  When viewing the aircraft parked at Terminal 4 and towards the 4s or 22s, you are facing somewhat of an easterly direction, and you will have the sunlight in front of you until later in the day (4 pm onward is best between March and October) and you will have to deal with heat haze.  This is also a great spot for nighttime photos.

Zinger Aviation Media does not recommend this spot for two reasons.  Firstly, this is a spot located on the airport grounds, and you are in the jurisdiction of PANYNJ and the Port Authority Police.  PAPD has tolerated spotters but the private security firms that very regularly patrol the parking lot are not friendly to spotters and will ask you to leave.  You have a very high risk of being asked to leave at this spot, especially if you are out in the open.  Lastly, because this is an airport parking garage, keep in mind that this lot is not free.  The parking rate is $4 for every 30 minutes, $8 for every hour, $4 for every 30 minutes after that first hour to a maximum of $33 for 24 hours but this can be paid either by cash, credit card, or EZ-Pass.

Facilities:  Restrooms are available in the terminal by the JetBlue ticket and check-in counters as well as water fountains.

 

Spot K:  This unique spot is located on the pedestrian bridge over I-678 and the North Service and South Service Roads.  This can be accessed by following the North Service Road to the parking lot for one of the cargo areas and then walking onto the other side via the pedestrian bridge.  You'll have a large open hangar in view and this is a fantastic alternate spot for 31L departures in the morning.  It is highly recommended that you do not utilize this spot for a lengthy period of time as it will likely draw suspicion among all authorities.

Zinger Aviation Media does not recommend this spot for a few reasons.  As stated above, you will draw an enormous amount of suspicion from all parties (civilian and law enforcement) by being stationary on the bridge.  This is a spot located on the airport grounds, and you are in the jurisdiction of PANYNJ and the Port Authority Police.  PAPD and even NYPD will likely ask you to leave if you are up there for a lengthy period of time.  I believe those watching would even be asked to leave.

Facilities:  None available.

 

Spot L:  This is an alternate spot to view 22L and 31R arrivals at North Woodmere Park.  The best way to get to this spot is to follow Rockaway Boulevard past the airport (take the Belt Parkway to Rockaway Boulevard).  Make a left at the light for Peninsula Blvd.  Continue on Peninsula Blvd. and make a left onto Branch Blvd.  You'll see the park to the left.  Find a parking spot and walk down the park towards the water.  Side shots and side shots can be obtained here.  You can use any kind of lens here but be sure to carry at least a 200 mm lens on you.  This is one of the locations you can catch an A380 arrival from, since the A380 is able to land on Runway 22L.

This spot is recommended for 31R arrivals in the early morning and 22L arrivals until mid-afternoon as the sun will be behind you.

Facilities:  There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along Rockaway Blvd within ten minutes of this spot.

 

Additional Notes

John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of the few airports in the world that regularly sees Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner traffic.  As of February 2015, A380s from Air France, Emirates, Lufthansa, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines operating the A380 to JFK.  A short list of 787 operators include Aeromexico, Avianca, Azerbaijan Airlines, Japan Airlines, LAN, LATAM, LOT, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Royal Air Maroc, and Royal Jordanian.  Because of the current layout of the runways and taxiways, all of the runways except for 31R can safely handle the A380.

Because of the geography around JFK as well as the vehicular traffic that plagues New York City on a daily basis, it is almost next to impossible to move from one spot to another in less than ten minutes.  You can, however, go between Spots C and I in a span of fifteen minutes or less depending on traffic and timing of stop lights - and if you know the shortcut!

Spotting from inside any of the terminals, whether with a camera or not, is strictly prohibited.  The Port Authority has a strict, unwritten no photography rule for inside the terminals of JFK, LGA, and EWR.  Authorities have been known to extend this out to those watching aircraft movements.  This also applies for the parking garages, especially the Terminal 5 garage.

Ladders are strictly forbidden at all spots listed here.

Security

The NYPD has jurisdiction through Spots A, B, C, and D as well as L, while the Nassau County Police Department have jurisdiction in the areas where Spots E, F, G, and H fall.  Spot E falls under NYPD and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) jurisdiction.  The New York State Park Police also has jurisdiction over Inwood Park and Bayswater State Park.  You'll always have a good likelihood of being questioned, so carry your ID at all times and be courteous to law enforcement and do not question their authority.

Keep in mind that you may be told by park employees that photographing and filming airplanes into and out of JFK from Bayswater State Park and/or Inwood Park will require you to obtain a permit to do so.  As far as I know, no such permit is required so long as you do not sell any photos or video.

Please, when visiting any of the spots that require you to leave your vehicle, lock your car and place all of your valuables out of sight.

The folks at NYCAviation.com know all about each of the spots mentioned and check out their forums for anything and everything on JFK, LGA, EWR, FRG, and ISP.